Eavesdropping in Oberammergau presents the lives of two families--a Jewish-American military family and a German family--plus a character derived from a true story who meet in Oberammergau, Germany, in the years immediately following World War II. The novel knits together the friendship between the families' eleven-year- old daughters, the eavesdropping Alison and Trudy, and Stefan Hirsch, the novel's hero.
Oberammergau is no ordinary Bavarian village--it is the home of the world-famous Passion Play, drawing millions of visitors to view the drama of the last days of Jesus. Generations of the townspeople have been transforming themselves into the saints and villains of the Biblical story every ten years for four centuries.
Author Hilary Salk has fictionalized her experience of living in Oberammergau, the only child of a Jewish American military officer, to impart the reality of life in this village full of make-believe.
Fifty years after she attended The Passion Play in 1950, Salk learned about the efforts by Jewish organizations to counteract the blatant anti-Semitism in The Play, and its links to Nazi hatred. Her research also led her to discover the story of a man that became the inspiration for her novel.
Renamed Stefan Hirsch in her book, Salk created a past, present, and future based on these bare truths about his real-life counterpart: He was born a Jew in Munich. He came to Oberammergau as a Catholic convert in the 1930s, and lived there until attacked on Kristallnacht in 1938, when he was taken to Dachau Concentration Camp. He was eventually released from Dachau, and lived in England for the remainder of the war. After the war, he returned to Oberammergau. The question is why. Salk's wonderful book answers that question, and relates how Hirsch's return transformed the lives of Alison and Trudy.